My first two responsibilities as your Pastor, listed in our Bylaws include:
1) “Encourage orderly procedures […] in compliance with the congregation’s Constitution and Bylaws,” and 2) “Give special attention to the selection and training of the congregation’s leaders.”
There is a reason I am charged to “give special attention to the selection and training” of leaders. There is nothing more important to the health and spiritual maturity of a church than the health and spiritual maturity of its leadership. If leaders don’t follow Christ, congregants won’t learn how to follow Christ. If leaders don’t serve or give, congregants won’t learn how to serve or give. If leaders don’t demonstrate spiritual maturity, then the church will wither for lack of faithfulness.
On the other hand, you can know someone is a leader – regardless of whether or not they have a title or position – if they are faithfully following Christ and giving of themselves in a way that inspires others to join them.
It is common for people to believe they are “called to lead” because they feel excited about ministry and have new ideas. And it is easy to mistake enthusiasm for calling, especially when there never seems to be enough people willing to serve. When that happens, it can be tempting to thrust an enthusiastic person into leadership, even if they aren’t ready.
So how can we know if someone is ready? How do we know someone is genuinely “called by God” to lead? And if someone believes they are called by God to lead, how can we put that calling to the test?
This is exactly why the Apostle Paul himself gave “special attention” to leadership. We find his thoughts on leadership throughout his letters: in Romans 12, 1 Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, 2 Timothy 2, and Titus 1. Throughout these writings, we can discern a pattern of three criteria for leadership.
3 Biblical Criteria for Leadership
Character is demonstrated through strong, healthy, and faithful relationships, self-controlled behavior, and a good reputation for integrity in the community (Titus 1:5-9).
Commitment is demonstrated by reliable participation in the life of the church over time. Paul compares this to the long-term “hard work” of soldiers, athletes, and farmers (2 Tim 2:1-13). Elsewhere, he describes the work of leadership as “diligence” (Rom 12:8). In short, any person should prove their commitment to the church by first serving well over a period of time before they are placed in leadership. Put simply, you can’t be a good leader until you first learn to be a good follower.
Lastly, God’s calling to serve in any ministry is demonstrated by the gifting of the Holy Spirit to minister well (Rom 12:3-8). For example, if you are called to serve the poor, we should expect God to give you the gifting (literally, the grace) to serve the poor effectively. However, leadership gifts exist not merely to do ministry work, but to equip others to do ministry work (Eph 4:11-12). Therefore, leadership candidates should have demonstrated the additional gifting to recruit, train, and nurture others into ministry work.
6 Bylaws Requirements For Leadership
It turns out, the three biblical criteria listed above are also found in our own church Bylaws. Notice how closely the Bylaws’ requirements for Board Members and Deacons listed below follow these three biblical criteria. The Bylaws state that a prospective leader must:
“Give evidence of seeking to grow in their own understanding and practice of the Christian life. Such evidence would include the following:
a. Conduct of one’s life in light of the teachings of Jesus Christ. [Character]
b. Promotion of good will and Christian Fellowship in the congregation and community. [Character & Commitment]
c. Regular attendance at the worship services and stated meetings of the Board and of the congregation. [Commitment]
d. Regular financial contributions to the support of the congregation and its outreach programs. [Commitment]
e. Willingness to fulfill assignments in behalf of the congregation. [Commitment & Calling]
f. Demonstrated skills or evident potential in carrying out responsibilities of the particular office. [Calling]”
Nominees to the FCC Board must meet all six of these requirements.
In a small, growing church like FCC, we should expect relatively few people to be ready to lead. That’s okay. It is damaging to the church and to the individual to rush someone into leadership. Besides, we need not be in a hurry to grow! Instead, we can trust God to grow us by God’s grace – in maturity, in ministry, and in leadership – at whatever pace is best for our long-term strength and health.
As you are considering whether or not to nominate persons to be Board members or Deacons, please prayerfully use these requirements to guide you.
Jason Coker, Pastor